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Victim-Blaming Women for Cologne NYE Attacks Makes Victims of All of Us

06/01/2016 15:30 | Updated 06 January 2016

Picture the scene, ladies.

It's late, you're at a main train station, on your way home. You notice a large group of men nearby, they're jeering at you, shouting unpleasant things. You're scared, you have no idea what they might do to you: they may just continue to shout, one may put a hand up your skirt, another could rape you whilst another mugs you - who knows? One thing's for sure, there's very little you can do about it.

Multiply this by around 100 and you'll have some idea of what happened on New Year's Eve across Germany.

In a series of mass attacks believed to be coordinated, 1,000 or so men sexually assaulted women. The majority of incidents happened outside the main station in Cologne, but attacks of a similar nature are now being recorded in Hamburg and elsewhere.

So far 90 women have reported incidents to police, including one woman who was raped. But bearing in mind the shocking percentage of sexual assault victims who feel unable to come forward, the reality is there could be many more women.

In fact, comments made by the Mayor of Cologne in the wake of the attacks have assured that it wasn't just some 90 women who became victims of sexual violence that night - but all women.

By choosing to focus on women's behaviour rather than that of the perpetrators, Mayor Henriette Reker has been accused of victim-blaming.

Reker suggested women adopt a "Code Of Conduct" to prevent further attacks. Her recommendations include maintaining an arm's length distance from strangers, sticking to one's own groups, and, in the event of a sexual assault, asking bystanders for help or to be witnesses, and to make the incident known to police.

More than 1,000 men launch a coordinated attack and the answer - from a woman, no less - is to make women responsible. How about we turn the tables, just once, and focus on the perpetrators?

Imagine telling men to keep women "at arm's length" to reduce chances of rape. It just wouldn't happen, would it?

Because God forbid we pass judgement on men and tell them to change their behaviour. We've already had thousands of years of telling women what to do, so why not just continue the bullshit? It's worked thus far... oh wait.

Others have better ideas:

— fleetstreetfox (@fleetstreetfox) January 6, 2016

I'm not trying to make this into a gender war. I know that not all men commit sexual assaults but all women will be sexually harassed, assaulted, raped or intimidated by men at some point in their lifetime.

The reason I asked women to picture the scene at the beginning of this blog is because all women will be able to recall a situation where they have felt exactly this way. We were all those women on NYE in Cologne, it could have been any of us.

But making women's experience into one homogenised lump isn't going to help anyone. We need to listen to and respect each experience, rather than dismissing them as one or focusing on the wrong aspect.

The clue for who is responsible for sexual assault and rape is in the act itself. Hell, it's even in the grammar: to rape vs to be raped, to sexually assault vs to be sexually assaulted.

Victims of sexual assault are victims, end of story. And to say otherwise in private or, worst of all, in a position of power to a possible audience of millions, like the Mayor did, is as dangerous and complicit as the act itself.

It's no wonder why so many women are put off coming forward and it's no wonder these attacks keep happening.

Let's just remember that not one arrest has been made so far, meaning that 1,000 or so men are still at large. They've attacked and intimidated women once, they will most certainly do it again.

How many more female victims do we need before the world wakes up to see what the real problem is?

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